by Jim Ridley
This Friday night, The Belcourt opens one of its best retrospectives yet: a 10-film overview of the career of Jacques Demy. Seriously: If you love movies and you've never seen one of Demy's gorgeous films — bursting with color, music and romance, yet far more complex (and frank) about politics and mores than their sumptuous surfaces may indicate — prepare to swoon. The Scene's Fall Guide could barely contain its enthusiasm:
Of the filmmakers who emerged during the brief glory years of the French New Wave, none has undergone a more radical — or deserved — reconsideration in recent years than the late Jacques Demy. Once largely dismissed as a featherweight aesthete who retreated to Hollywood musicals, romances and fairy tales when the rest of the world was literally at the ramparts, Demy has been embraced decades after his death in 1990 as a bold stylist who used the most starry-eyed of genres to explore the complexities of love and human relations, even politics. His reputation is likely to rise even higher as the first major retrospective of his films this century tours North America — including a stop at The Belcourt in late November.
If all you know of the director's work is his glorious 1964 Catherine Deneuve musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg — a movie that left grown men sobbing at its last Belcourt screening several years ago — a treasure chest of riches awaits you in this nearly complete Janus Films retro, which includes several rarities being shown in Nashville for the first time. For one thing, the series shows the true scope of his work, from 1963's delirious gambling melodrama Bay of Angels (starring Jeanne Moreau, and set to a torrential Michel Legrand score) to 1972's shockingly grim English-language telling of The Pied Piper, with folksinger Donovan and the menacing duo of John Hurt and Donald Pleasence. ...
Local Demy completists never imagined they'd get a chance to see the movie considered his unsung masterpiece, the decidedly darker 1982 musical Une chambre en ville [A Room in Town, screening this Sunday], on the big screen in Nashville. Its appearance here … makes this an occasion for cinephiles on par with previous Belcourt retrospectives of Hitchcock, Bresson, Kurosawa and Shohei Imamura. But the screening series is recommended just as strongly to casual moviegoers, as Demy is among the most accessible and purely enjoyable of great directors. All it takes to appreciate his films is a love of beauty, music and color; the twinge of a once-broken heart; and the capacity to dream.
The clip above is by Belcourt trailer wizard Zack Hall, also the man responsible for the awesome found-flotsam montages that precede the midnight movies. If there's any quibble with the program, it's that the series is missing a couple of the more obscure films (notably the 1988 Yves Montand musical Three Seats for the 26th) that showed elsewhere in the tour. But before anyone complains about what's not here, start by seeing what is. And if you're feeling particularly ambitious, take advantage of the theater's Demy marathon Thanksgiving weekend — as joyous an antidote to Black Friday as we can imagine.